The 41-A District Court in Shelby Township covers 3 municipalities: Shelby Township, Macomb Township, and the city of Utica. If you’re arrested for a DUI in any of these places, your case winds up in the Court a Detroit DUI lawyer like me simply calls “Shelby.”
Of course, it goes without saying that no one wants to face a drunk driving charge. I have often called any Michigan DUI charge “an accident of geography” because absolutely no one expects to go out and get a DUI in the first place, much less plans on where to get it. Sometimes, you wind up driving to different and distant places to meet up with others, and might, for example, drive all the way from Westland to Novi to Rochester to New Baltimore. You could get pulled over anywhere along the way, and given the (somewhat unlikely) route used in this illustration, you could find yourself in either one of the toughest or the most “forgiving” (as in “lenient”) jurisdictions in the Detroit-area, or anything in-between.
The point is that a DUI just happens where it happens. No one plans any part of it, although some would argue that a rather distinct lack of planning is the reason it happens in the first place. We’ll let MADD deal with that part of thing; for now, we’ll just stick to talking about “Shelby.”
If you were going to plan to get a DUI, however, you’d certainly want to wind up in a lenient jurisdiction where the penalties weren’t so severe and the Judge was nice. Shelby is that place.
Let’s begin with the Judge. Having come to the Bench after working for a long time in private practice, Judge Douglas Shepherd brings a real world understanding to his position. This is hugely important, because it’s a lot easier to understand people, if you’re sitting on one side of the table, when you’ve sat on the other side, as well. Judge Shepherd, having been in private practice, knows that people charged with a DUI are often people who have made a one-time mistake, or even made the same mistake a second time. He knows that a DUI charge cuts across all groups, and that DUI defendants are your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Whatever else, we can’t simply describe those charged with a DUI as “them.” This is sometimes what the more judgmental amongst us do; these are also usually the first people to change their tune when it happens to them, or someone close to them. We think of that kind of judgmental person as being on a “high horse.”
Not so with Judge Shepherd. He is, first and foremost, a decent and likeable man. You can’t miss this. Look, it’s no secret that when you encounter someone who is a real jerk (think of another 5-letter word that begins with the letter “a” and rhymes with “eggroll”) it’s a big turn off. Power is best used by those who use it the least, and that describes Judge Shepherd. I’ve been a regular in his Court since his election in 2000, and never once have I ever seen him make a case about him. Instead, he directs his attention to the matter before him, where it belongs. Intelligent and compassionate, he runs an efficient Court that pays homage to the first rule of everything: Common sense.
Nothing works in a vacuum, however. As much as the Judge is the face of the Court, the probation department is its voice. In a DUI case, the probation department conducts the legally mandatory assessment of a DUI driver before the Judge sentences him or her. This means that the probation department is responsible for recommending to the Judge what should (and should not) be done to the person facing a DUI. The probation assessment process results in a written recommendation to the Judge to be considered at sentencing. As it turns out, the 41-A probation department, which is housed in the other 41-A Court in Sterling Heights, is equally “down to earth.” This means that you’ll almost never see a recommendation that’s way over the top, or “mean spirited.” Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some probation departments in Oakland County, and the contrast between one of those and 41-A probation department is like the contrast between a 12 week old Labrador puppy and a hungry grizzly bear, with the 41-A probation department being the tail-wagging puppy.
There is a lot more to this, of course. Nothing about a DUI case can really be “summarized,” but the fact of the matter is that where your DUI occurs is one of the single biggest predictors of how it will play out. If you call my office about a DUI charge, one of the very first question’s we’ll ask is “where?” If one of my legal assistants mentions a new DUI appointment that they made for me, the first question I’ll ask is “where?” “Where” matters, and, in large part, determines how easy or rough your case will be. We could spend days talking about evidence and dismissals and field sobriety tests and whatnot, but overriding all of that is where your case is being decided, and if it’s in Shelby, at least you wound up in one of the very best (as in nicest) Courts anywhere in the Tri-County area. That doesn’t mean that the Judge is going to apologize for the inconvenience to you and throw gift certificates at you, but it also means that you’re not going to be dragged out of Court in handcuffs thinking you were unfairly pounded, either.